CRP Racing’s Jason Daskalos was able to get past TKO Racing’s Memo Gidley with 17 minutes to go. From there, he held on and avoided slower traffic to win the GT America Powered by AWS season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla. Friday (March 3) for the second straight year.
The win came after a brutal day for the CRP Racing team. Daskalos was quickest in the opening practice Friday morning, then crashed his car. The team was forced to go to a backup and thrash to get it prepared. As a result, Daskalos had to start in 11th, the back of the SRO3 class.
Daskalos won by .893 seconds over Gidley’s similar Mercedes. GMG Racing’s James Sofronas was third, while RealTime Racing’s Andy Pilgrim was fourth. Mishumotors’ Mirco Schultis in the sole Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R was fifth.
DXDT Racing’s Scott Smithson started from the overall pole in his Mercedes, but trouble came quickly. His time at the front lasted less than a minute.
On the first lap, DXDT Racing’s Jeff Burton went wide in the treacherous turn 3 and hit the wall hard, heavily damaging his Mercedes-AMG GT3. The track was littered with debris as well.
At turn 4, Smithson spun on his own and hit the tire barrier. Crowdstrike Racing with Riley Motorsports’ George Kurtz had nowhere to go and hit Smithson.
The dual wrecks brought out the full course yellow. All three drivers were forced to retire due to the crashes, but no one was injured. Only Kurtz was able to drive back to the pits, but he was forced to retire with a broken radiator.
Sofronas, who debuted the new Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, ended up in the overall lead with Gidley giving chase once the smoke cleared. The veteran seemed to have a quick car, but not without problems.
Sofronas went too hot into turn 1 on the initial start of the race while going after Smithson. Doing that ultimately meant that he didn’t get caught up in Smithson’s crash.
It wasn’t any better on the restart. Sofronas went too hot into the turn again and went wide, allowing Gidley to take the lead. Daskalos, who avoided all the chaos and made a number of passes in the first couple of corners of the race, followed into second.
The two drivers managed to pull out a six-second lead over Sofronas and attempted to settle things among themselves. Eventually, lapped traffic played a role.
Gidley got caught behind RENNtech Motorsports’ Thomas Johnson in his GT4 Mercedes through the quick turn 9 kink. That allowed Daskalos sweep past into the lead with 17 minutes to go.
Once out front, Daskalos pulled away to a decent advantage while Sofronas ran down Gidley for second. Then, traffic brought Daskalos back to Gidley.
The lead rose and shrank for Daskalos over the final 10 minutes as they caught slower traffic. By the final lap, the top three cars were nose-to-tail, but Daskalos was able to hold on for the win.
At first, Coleman and Bell were being held up by the GT3 Porsche of Andy Wilzoch, making his return to racing after a year away. Eventually, Wilzoch pulled away and left the duo to battle for GT4 honors.
Coleman was in position to take the win until he made an unenforced error with seven minutes to go. He went too hot into turn 4 and ended hitting the tires.
That crash allowed Bell to move into the class lead. From there, it looked good for Bell. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble on the last lap.
Bell appeared to clip the wall exiting turn 9 and ended up with a flat right front tire. That allowed defending GT America GT4 champion Ross Chouest to take the lead with just a couple of corners to go. He then held on for the win.
Chouest ended up 1.355 seconds ahead of The Heart of Racing’s Gray Newell at the finish. Bell limped his car to the finish to take third. Accelerating Performance’s Moisey Uretsky was fourth, while Team ACP Tangerine’s Steve Weber finished fifth in his BMW M4 GT4.
Race No. 2 for GT America Powered by AWS from St. Petersburg is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon. The race will be streamed live on the GT World YouTube channel.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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